Asbestos Defendants Say Government Didn’t Follow Own Rules

Asbestos Defendants Say Government Didn’t Follow Own Rules


12/02/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma lawyers: Cooney & Conway

Attorneys for two men charged with violating critical asbestos regulations contend that the criminal case against them should be dropped, because, they claim, the government failed to follow its own testing procedures on material removed from a Des Moines building in 2007.

While prosecutors and other attorneys—particularly mesothelioma lawyers representing those struck down by the deadly asbestos-related disease—have often based their cases on the failure of defendants to follow asbestos regulations, this case marks a notable reversal, with the defendants claiming it was the government that didn’t follow the rules.

In the Des Moines case, federal prosecutors have alleged that developer Bob Knapp and Russell Coco, the supervisor of a renovation project at Des Moines’s landmark Equitable Building, knowingly removed asbestos—a material that has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma—and had it placed in open Dumpsters® and improperly disposed of in a local landfill.

Government lawyers also contend that several floors of the building were gutted, even though they contained excessive levels of asbestos. The floors were undergoing renovation into condominiums at the time.

The two defendants have been charged with 11 counts of violating the Clean Air Act and with failing to give notice before renovation and demolition—measures designed to protect workers, residents, and others from dangerous asbestos exposure. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Long used in construction because of its heat- and fire-resistant qualities, asbestos is still present in many older structures and poses a particular danger during renovation work, when the material can easily be disturbed and asbestos fibers released into the air.

Once inhaled, asbestos can trigger diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma, a particularly aggressive cancer of the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs, years after exposure.

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is particularly grim, with no cure or effective long-term treatment available. Typically the only relief victims can get is in the courtroom, where mesothelioma lawyers have won large—even multimillion-dollar settlements—on behalf of their stricken clients.

According to a 15-page brief filed with the court, lawyers for the two defendants argue that the federal government’s case should be dismissed because investigators used an improper test—one not allowed under the criminal statutes—to measure asbestos content in material taken from the renovation site.

As a result, the lawyers argue, there is no evidence the material removed from the building contained enough asbestos to fall under the rules of the Clean Air Act. Defense lawyers further contend that retesting is impossible, because samples cannot be located and were most likely destroyed.

This isn’t the first asbestos-related trouble for Knapp. Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Bureau of Iowa fined two limited partnerships Knapp owns for failing to have a trained supervisor handle asbestos removal and for failing to properly train and equip employees working with asbestos. The trial in the Des Moines case is scheduled for January 2011.

This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we have been advocates for those injured because of the wrongful actions of others. We have litigated and resolved some of the nation’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, bringing justice—and compensation—to victims of asbestos exposure and the lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other deadly diseases it can cause.

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